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British See Soviet-arab Arms Deal As Factor in Johnson Decision on Jets for Israel

British newspapers suggested today that reported new Soviet-Egyptian arms deal was a factor in President Johnson’s directive last week to negotiate the sale of American supersonic aircraft to Israel. According to the report, ascribed to extremely accurate pro-Israeli sources, the Russians have offered to supply Egypt with 100 supersonic fighter planes and large numbers of tanks. The pro-Israeli sources insisted that the arms deal was not contingent on the sale of American Phantom jets to Israel. Other Middle Eastern sources maintained that it was.

The Guardian said in an editorial today that the timing of President Johnson’s decision and the decision itself was inevitable in view of the Soviet build-up of the Egyptian, Syrian and Iraqi Air Forces. The newspaper said that America sees two ways to a Middle East peace: A strong Israel that can fend for itself without a direct American commitment for its defense, or a neutralized Middle East where peace would be negotiated jointly and guaranteed by the Big Powers.